How to Set Up and Run a Successful Dance Audition

Updated on June 25, 2018
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Auditions are an extremely important part of the dance world. Instructors are searching for the ideal candidate to fill a spot or create a team/group. By having an audition, students are introduced to the audition process early and are able to become accustomed to everything it entails. There are a few things that an instructor must keep in mind when preparing for an audition. This article will not only go through the steps, but also include helpful hints and tips for a truly successful audition.

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What Are the Dancers Auditioning For?

The first step in preparing to hold an audition is being crystal clear on exactly what the dancers are auditioning for. Some things to consider:

  • Are they auditioning to be a soloist or part of a team/in a group?
  • What style of dance is going to featured? Will there be multiple styles?
  • Where will they be performing and for whom?
  • Do they need to be a certain age, skill level, or both?

(If a dancer is unclear about the purpose of auditions, he or she may decide not to participate, which could result in a small turnout.)

Being clear from the start is very important to establish trust between the people organizing the audition and the people auditioning. By having clear guidelines, the instructors know what they are looking for and the dancers know what they are auditioning for. Clarity helps things to start out on a positive note.

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Choose a Venue, Date, and Time

The physical location where the audition is held should be chosen with care. When choosing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Is the size sufficient for the audition?
  • Is there a place for the judges to sit?
  • How many days will the venue be in use?
  • Is the lighting/electrical/ventilation system working and reliable?

Let's take each question one at a time. Size needs to be considered when choosing a venue. More space is optimal so the dancers have room to move fully and to the best of their ability. However, if an audition takes place somewhere overly large, like a gymnasium, there could be an issue with the acoustics. Large spaces can cause an echo or can drown out a voice. Those auditioning may struggle to hear what was being said by the facilitator. Not hearing clearly could put a dancer at a disadvantage. When judges are present, if they cannot hear, they cannot give an accurate score.

Moving onto the second point, having a place for the judges to be seated is a must. There should be room for a table and chairs for the judges to fill out the score sheets. If the judges are cramped or uncomfortable they will judge differently than if they were comfortably seated. Having a table will also provide a place for the score sheets to placed and organized as the audition takes place.

If the venue is to be used for multiple days, this could limit the options available. Choosing a place that is not usually a largely trafficked area is a good place to hold an audition. When the room isn't over-scheduled, it is much more likely that it will be available for use for the duration of the audition should it run multiple days. If the audition is one day, the popularity of a room may not be as crucial.

The last thing to consider is the reliability of the amenities in the room. If the electricity is not reliable, this could slow the audition process a great deal. The lighting needs to be just as reliable because holding an audition in complete darkness really isn't a realistic possibility. Lastly, check for a ventilation system of some sort. A heating and cooling unit is always a bonus, but not always available in the room chosen. There should be some way to vent the room should it become too warm even if it is just opening the windows. Keeping the temperature regulated is important so dancers do not overheat.

Once a room meeting the above criteria is found, be sure to check that it is booked for the correct date and time. Double and triple checking never hurts!

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Marketing

Once the venue for the auditions is booked, the time has come to start marketing. This is important because without marketing, no one will know there is an audition and nobody will show up. Be sure to remember the target audience while deciding on the best marketing strategy.

Posters/Fliers

Though this may seem a little obvious it is very important. The more people see something, the more apt they are to remember it. Posting fliers on doors, walls, bulletin boards, etc, gives multiple opportunities for the information to be seen and remembered.

When making a flier, use bright colors and pictures to attract attention. Be sure not to go overboard and remember that clean and classy will be noticed more than mushed and messy. Have a headline that captures attention and include the date, time and place of the audition.

Utilize Social Media

Social media has become the most prominent and effective way to advertise. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the main social media outlets. Post every day or two as a reminder of the coming audition. If the audition is for a private business, club, or organization that has a web page, be sure to have the audition information on the home page.

Talk It Up!

When advertising, remember that the excitement level of those organizing the event will dictate the energy and interest level of those eligible. Be sure to mention the audition to everyone who is able to audition. If children are able to audition, be sure to talk with a parent or guardian as they will most likely be the one bringing the dancer to the audition. Every time the audition is advertised, be sure whoever is speaking knows to smile and be enthusiastic!

Word of Mouth

For companies or teams that are no longer on their first year, be sure to have the returning members talk up the audition! These are people with first hand experience who can attest to the positives of the program and can encourage others to join. Often the best way to get the word out is by word of mouth.

These four methods are the most tried and true forms for marketing. There are other strategies that can also be successful, but these ones are always a great way to start!

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Find Judges

An audition cannot take place without judges. When searching for qualified individuals, remember that experience and impartiality are important. The first thing you should ask a potential judge is if they have any association with or prior knowledge about those they will be judging. Unbiased judging is the best way to run an audition. This ensures that everything is done fairly for each dancer.

Judges need to be knowledgeable about what it is they are judging. It's important to know the person's qualifications and it is not unusual to request a resume to learn the background of the person being considered.

Word of mouth is also a great way to find people qualified to judge. Having a strong network of colleagues means you're more likely to know people who can recommend some names. You can decide over the phone or via an in person interview if they are a good fit for this particular judging position.

The standard number of judges for dance is three, but it never hurts to have extras on hand. Things can come up and a replacement may be difficult to find on short notice. If more than three show up, scoring can be altered accordingly, which will be discussed in one of the following sections.

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Scoring Basics

Scoring can be tricky. There are two methods that are commonly used. The first is using a scale of 100 per judge and totaling out of 300. The second is taking an average of the scores. Taking the score out of 300 tends to be a bit easier, but the average tends to be slightly more accurate.

Tip: Each judge should be provided with enough scoring sheets per dancer as well as multiple pens and/or pencils.

Tip #2: Tallying as the audition progresses can save time later.

Audition Number Assignments

There are two great ways to do check in and distribute numbers to dancers. One is by setting everything up in advance. The second is checking dancers in and assigning numbers as dancers arrive on the day of the audition. Here's a breakdown of both ways:

In Advance Check-In

Using this method can be very helpful as it shows how many dancers are expected and allows more time to get things set prior to audition day.

Be sure that it is clear when advertising that in order to audition a dancer must sign up ahead of time.

Once signup has closed, organize the list of participants from A-Z by last name. Then assign each dancer a number starting with 1. Make sure there are no duplicates. On the day of the audition, dancers will arrive, go to a designated check-in table, give their name and receive an audition number. The person running check-in will easily be able to keep track of everyone who has arrived.

It is up to the organizers if they wish to allow dancers not on the list to be assigned a number and allowed to audition.

At the Door Check-In/Signup

This method does not require as much preparation, but it does leave the pepole running the audition at a disadvantage. Not having any estimate on the number of participants can cause issues. The person doing check-in has a list of numbers and as each dancer arrives, they fill in their name and contact information next to the next free number on the list.

Preparing

Both methods are effective, but both require a certain amount of preparation. Individual numbers should be ready and easy to attach to a dancer's clothing.

An easy way to do audition numbers is to use adhesive stickers with numbers written on each. The only danger is that often the adhesive does not hold up during an intense dance audition. Another method is pinning a paper number to the dancer's clothing. This can be irritating for the dancer and the number can become bent/ruined as the audition progresses. The third way is using a soft felt number and pinning it on the dancer.

The great thing about the felt numbers is that they are reusable and hold up well throughout the audition.

Helpful Hint

Have the dancers place the number either in the middle of the back or on the stomach in the front. The stomach is usually preferable as it allows the judges to see the number more clearly.

Post Audition

Once the audition is complete, be sure each dancer returns their audition number (if it is re-usable) and receives information about how /when/where to find the results. Tally the scores. Once each dancer's sheet is tallied, make a list from highest to lowest score with the dancer's number next to each score. Compare the numbers to the participant's names and label each score with the dancer's name. The easiest way to decide who to choose is to find the natural break in the numbers.

For example:

Sally 295

Judy 292

Christina 291

Tina 290

Shelly 285

Joanne 284

Lilith 265

Patty 264

With this group, the natural break is between Joanne with 284 and Lilith with 265. Anyone above this natural break is accepted.

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Posting the List

After all this work, everything is finally complete and all that remains is to notify those who were accepted! This can be done through email, a posting on a website, a posted hard copy, etc. Be sure that everything is sent 24-48 hours after the conclusion of the audition. Make sure everyone knows that participation is appreciated and to try again if they did not make it.

Out of courtesy, it can be kind to offer to allow the dancers who did not get accepted is to contact those in charge of the audition and get feedback for improvement in the future.

After all this work, enjoy the results of your audition!

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